It’s March, the weather is still shit and I want to go on holiday. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it, so I’m on a frugality drive. Easier said than done though, because – as we all know – saving money is incredibly difficult. And boring. Sacking off the pub with your mates is no fun at all, and no matter how much you hide from the shops, temptation will always sniff you out and try to drag you kicking and screaming back into the red. And everything is just so fucking expensive, especially in London. The other day I spent £13 on a cocktail. It wasn’t even that good. More fool me, I suppose, but the remarkable thing is that that really isn’t remarkable.
But the biggest adversary of my new-found frugality is the internet. Now that we’re all spending so much time online, it’s impossible not to be bombarded with invitations to splurge. It’s not just the straight-up adverts either; we’re used to those. (One day I’m going to tell my grandchildren about when YouTube didn’t have ads on it and it’s going to blow their minds.) No, I think adverts for free content is fair, even though they are irritating. The worst are the ones that pull up your previous browsing history to sell you shit you’ve already looked at. What the fuck is that? Google calls it an ‘Ad Innovation’, I call it an invasion of privacy. (Its actual name is ‘remarketing’ or ‘retargeting’, and even AdBlock doesn’t work on it. It’s insidious and I hate it.)
Unexpected visits from the ghosts of pages past is, sadly, very effective. You’ve done some window shopping on your lunch break, eschewed all the beautiful things with a firm hand because, you know, responsibilities, and yet here they are again. Teasing you. It’s like being bullied by stuff, and it works. No wonder nearly 20% of the population is horribly hard-up.
But we don’t help ourselves either. Marketers are like vampires: ten times more dangerous when you invite them in. So why do we follow hundreds of corporate accounts on Twitter and Facebook? Why do we queue up to swallow their bullshit? We don’t like being tricked into opting into a mailer or permitting a company to sell our details to “carefully selected third parties”, but we’ll happily interact with brands’ social media accounts, most of whom behave even more obnoxiously than the neediest and most attention-seeking ‘friend’ on your Facebook feed.
I don’t have a problem with social media updates about, say, new stock, or a sale, or anything to do with the actual brand. I’ve ‘Liked’ them because I, well, like them. No problem. But I don’t want my feeds getting clogged with inane crap from some social media ‘expert’ sitting in head office. Nor do I want to reply to their insipid questions about my weekend or share the weak-ass memes they post to ‘engage’ with me.
An example: in December, dog food-maker Eukanuba posted, ‘Is your dog getting excited for Christmas? Like Eukanuba and tell us today!’
First off, begging for ‘Likes’ is pathetic. Secondly, my dog couldn’t give less of a shit about Christmas. He’s a dog. His favourite things are food, sleep and badger shit, in that order, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for the birth of Jesus Christ or the magic of Christmas. He just gets himself into a tizz over all the frightening suitcases, then loses his shit completely over the wrapping paper. And then some idiot (my dad) feeds him leftover sprouts and we all sit in the living room playing Balderdash while he squeezes out the world’s most evil-smelling farts.
It’s time to take a stand. (Against these mindless marketing ploys, not dog farts. Although that’s next on my list.) Do it now, while you’re online. Take a look at who you follow on Twitter and remove the accounts who do nothing but spam your feed with shameless self-promotion. I removed over a hundred accounts the other day (using ManageFlitter.com), and now my feed is full of actual people talking about actual things that actually interest me. (For the record, anyone who retweets their horoscope or links to their duck-faced Instagrams gets unfollowed immediately. No second chances for astrology or arseholery.)
If you don’t have a filter system in place for steaming off all the bullshit that washes up in your inbox, you need to get on Unroll.me, which goes through all your subscriptions and automatically cuts the crap without having to spend hours hunting down elusive unsubscribe pages.
Then log onto Facebook and ‘Unlike’ all those brands who are only using your loyalty to try and hawk you their shit even more aggressively. And Facebook has targeted ads even for brands you haven’t ‘Liked’, so make it difficult for them. Take off your gender. Take off your sexual orientation. Take off your relationship status. Anyone who needs to know that stuff already does. Giving Facebook these basic pieces of data just means they can sell your eyeballs more easily. Not only to brands that might actually wreck your savings plans, but to people who want to bombard you with highly targeted and obnoxious adverts like, “Nearly thirty and still single?” and ‘Like Placebo? Then you’ll love <really shit band you’ve never heard of from Slough>’
The internet is the greatest invention of our time. Information, communication and, yes, instant shopping is available to almost everyone, and at the touch of a button. But as we fall deeper down the web hole, we need to stop making it so easy for people to shill us their stuff. Not just because it breeds a lot of lazy and unoriginal marketing, but because none of us need to be spending our money on so much unnecessary crap.
Let’s play a little more hard to get, eh?
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